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DeSantis launches billboards in Illinois to encourage police to move to Florida

The governor's latest dig at Chicago comes as Illinois allows some non-citizens to become officers and ends cash bail.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — "Citizenship Matters. Law Enforcement Matters." 

"Make the Smart Move to Florida!"

These are the slogans on billboards Gov. Ron DeSantis is launching in Chicago and surrounding areas in Illinois to encourage officers in the city to move to Florida, offering them a signing cash bonus of $5,000 if they do. This is in response to two new laws signed by Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. 

The new laws in Illinois

The first is HB 3751, which allows non-citizens with legal working rights and the right to carry a gun in the U.S. to become law enforcement officers in the state. The second is the SAFE-T Act, a provision of which will end the use of cash bail in 2024.

According to The Associated Press, Illinois enacted the latter in response to criticisms that cash bail targets poor and Black communities while allowing wealthy people to pay their way out of jail. 

The former which, as Illinois newspaper The Pentagraph reports, had several Republican co-sponsors, was passed to give immigrants the opportunity to serve their communities and to boost law enforcement, which generally has struggled to recruit and retain officers in recent years, according to the bill's main sponsor, Illinois Rep. Barbara Hernandez.

DeSantis' response

DeSantis decried the laws as "stupid."

"That is not going to work. Crime, I think, has already started to shoot up even above what it was because the attitude is like, you know what, let the inmates run the asylum,” DeSantis said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “That does not work.”

Violent crime in Illinois has dropped steadily over the past 30 years, according to data from the FBI.

Initially, DeSantis also joined other conservative politicians in falsely claiming that the law would allow "illegal aliens" to become police officers on a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Pritzker responded by debunking DeSantis' claims.

Illinois Rep. John Cabello, a Republican and police detective who co-sponsored the bill, also said right-wing critics were misrepresenting the bill.

"Everybody out there that is saying that an illegal or non-citizen can become a police officer is lying," Cabello said. "There is no way, shape or form that this bill allows them to do that."

Florida recruitment

While DeSantis subsequently backed away from "illegal alien" claims, he still characterized the laws as "disastrous."

"We stand behind our citizen officers, and we give them the tools to succeed professionally and personally. Other states deputize non-citizens, enact policies that favor criminals over victims, and work to overtly or covertly defund the police, but not in Florida. I look forward to welcoming the Illinois men and women in blue to the law-and-order state," DeSantis said in an official statement.

The statement also claimed that Florida's law enforcement recruitment efforts had brought more than 2,700 officers in from 48 states, including "more than 37" from Illinois.

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis confirms 2nd year of $1K bonuses for first responders, police officers

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